Herman Charles Bosman (1905 - October 14, 1951) was a South African writer and journalist who became famous for capturing the rhythms of backveld Afrikaans speech even though he wrote in English. He is widely regarded as the greatest short story writer to come out of South Africa. Many of his stories have a sting in the tail.
He was born at Kuilsrivier, near Cape Town. While still young, his family moved to Johannesburg where he went to school at Jeppe Boys High School in Kensington. He was a contributor to the school magazine. When he was 16, he started writing amusing short stories for the national Sunday newspaper (the Sunday Times). He attended the University of the Witwatersrand submitting various pieces to student’s literary competitions.
Upon graduating, he accepted a teaching position in the Groot Marico district. The area and the people inspired him and provided the background for his best stories; the ones about Oom Schalk Lourens and the Voorkamer sketches. (In Afrikaans, Oom is Uncle and a Voorkamer is literally the Front Room).
During the school holidays in 1926, he returned to visit his family in Johannesburg. During an argument, he fired a rifle at his stepbrother and killed him.
He was sentenced to death and moved to Death row at the Pretoria Central Prison. He was reprieved and sentenced to ten years with hard labour. In 1930, he was released on parole after serving half his sentence. His experiences formed the basis for one of his best known books, Cold Stone Jug.
He then started his own printing press company and was part of a literary set in Johannesburg, associating with poets, journalists and writers. Needing a break, he then toured overseas for nine years, spending most of his time in London. The short stories that he wrote during this period formed the basis for another of his best-known books, Mafeking Road.
At the start of the Second World War, he returned to South Africa and worked as a journalist. He found the time to translate the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam into Afrikaans.
He lamented the fact that Johannesburg never respected its heritage; writing in The Standard Theatre "They will pull down the Standard Theatre like they have pulled down all the old buildings, theatres, gin-palaces, dosshouses, temples, shops, arcades, cafes and joints that were intimately associated with the mining-camp days of Johannesburg. Because I know Johannesburg. And I am satisfied that there is no other city in the world that is so anxious to shake off the memories of its early origins."
He married Ella Manson, and the couple were renowned for their bohemian lifestyle and parties. His parties ended well after midnight with much witty conversation. After a housewarming party he was taken ill with severe chest pains and was taken to Edenvale Hospital. On admission he was asked, "Place of birth?" He replied, "Born Kuilsrivier - Died Edenvale Hospital." He was discharged and collapsed at home a few hours later. He died as he was being rushed to hospital. He is buried in Westpark Cemetery in Westdene.
Only three of his books were published during his lifetime; Mafeking Road published by Dassie, and Jacaranda in the Night and Cold Stone Jug published by APB.
His biography was written by Valerie Rosenberg and was called Sunflower to the sun ISBN 079811228X Human & Rousseau.
Because many of his stories were originally published in long-forgotten magazines and journals, there are a number of anthologies by different collators each containing a different selection. His original books have also been published many times by different publishers.
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